Miami’s Everyday She-Roes

Don’t step on their capes—these inspiring women are on a mission to make Miami a better place

Dejha Carrington. Photography by Vanessa Rogers
Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Dejha Carrington, Arts Advocate 

From an early age, the arts have been part of Dejha Carrington’s life. Her sister played the violin; her brother snapped photos. To foster Carrington’s artistic endeavors, her dad built a draft table to hold her Legos and art materials. “They really nurtured and cultivated that creative spirit,” she says. After college, she snagged a publicist job with the National Film Board of Canada. “From the very beginning, I saw my work at the intersection of community and arts and culture.” 

In 2005, she moved to South Florida. Initially motivated to escape the winter, she fell in love with the area after volunteering with Art Miami. “About two weeks later, I was trying to figure out how I could make this world more permanent,” she says. Today, she’s the vice president of strategic communications for YoungArts in Miami, which empowers young artists to pursue a life in the arts.

She’s also the co-founder of Commissioner, a membership-based program that connects locals to artists in their cities to build stronger arts ecosystems. The project commissions four artists a year to create 40 works and also builds a community of art patrons to support them. 

Carrington’s arts advocacy has led to numerous speaking engagements, and she often finds herself in front of audiences of students who are considering art careers. “Speaking with students has been some of the most rewarding conversations,” she says. “What you’re seeing is a window into the future of the arts.” 

Carrington says she’s most motivated when she’s supporting art—whether that’s through her work at YoungArts or Commissioner or even her own collecting. “Artists are essential to our overall well-being,” she says. “I hope that people start thinking about how they can be involved and support artists, wherever they are in the journey.”

Kinga Lampert. Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Kinga Lampert, Pink Pioneer

One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. This alarming fact has been top of mind for Kinga Lampert since she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31 years old.

“It was a total shock,” Lampert recalls of her diagnosis. She had just given birth to her daughter and had a 1-year-old son at home. Thankfully, her treatment was a success. “Here I am 16 years later—in May it’s going to be 17 years—surviving breast cancer,” says Lampert, who has since dedicated her life to supporting breast cancer research. 

Originally from Warsaw, Poland, Lampert was working as a lawyer in New York City when she met her husband, Edward. They lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, for more than a decade before settling in Miami. She first learned of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) through her friendship with founder Evelyn Lauder while in New York. “What really attracted me to the mission of this particular organization is the singular focus on research,” she says.

After Evelyn passed away 10 years ago, her husband, Leonard, asked Lampert if she’d like to take on a leadership role. She’s served as co-chair of the board of directors ever since and calls this work her “life’s mission.” 

Lampert primarily focuses on fundraising initiatives, raising awareness for the disease, and setting goals and objectives to ensure new discoveries bring us closer to a cure. “What we’ve been incredibly proud of is that BCRF-funded researchers have been a part of every major breakthrough in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and metastasis in the last 30 years,” she says. “I always thought a cure was going to be a vaccine, pill, or drug, but now the more I learn and the more I see where science is going, I think a cure for breast cancer could just be being able to contain the disease.” 

Lampert hosts BCRF events locally including the Fashion Strikes Cancer benefit at the Miami Design District and the Hot Pink Luncheon with Bal Harbour Shops. She has forged a relationship with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and she and her husband have become major donors to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, funding a new state-of-the-art research lab in 2016 that is now known as the Kinga and Edward Lampert Laboratory for Breast Cancer Research. 

Amaris Jones. Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Amaris Jones, Chef to the Stars

Taste chef Amaris Jones’ soul food, and you’d think she’s always been a full-time chef. But her path to the culinary scene was far from linear. “I was a preacher’s kid,” says Jones, whose father  owned one of the first storefront churches on South Street in Philadelphia. She moved to South Florida for work in 2000. But the real estate investment company where she’d been employed sold its assets and laid off the management team—including Jones. She pivoted and found her footing by managing celebrity homes. Then, she met Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. 

“I managed Diddy’s house for a while, and I turned that into kind of like a concierge company,” she says. 

In 2004, she worked for high-profile clients like music producer Timbaland, coordinating everything from real estate searches to staffing chefs for events. “I would be at Puff’s house managing [it], and I always found myself in the kitchen looking at the chefs and their craft,” Jones recalls. “I’ve been cooking since I was like 10 years old. I was always an avid cook and just had this natural gift.” 

When Jones hosted dinner parties at home, guests would often ask where they could find similar food. The queries launched her culinary career, and she opened Motown-inspired South Street in the Design District in 2012. “I brought that culture—the warm, Southern, soul culture,” she says of her restaurant, which closed the following year.  

She’s since landed catering gigs with the NFL, BET Networks, Pérez Art Museum Miami, and Art Basel, to name a few, and has hosted private events all over the U.S. and beyond. Her focus today is on Chick’n  Jones, a fast-casual concept that originated as a Sunday night pop-up at The Forge before turning into the permanent locale at Time Out Market Miami in 2021. 

Jones’ fundraising efforts and support of local organizations were honored in October at the No More Tears luncheon, which assists and empowers victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. She has partnered with the Miami affiliate of Common Threads, a nonprofit that provides children and families with nutrition education to encourage healthy habits, and was previously on the board for Dress for Success Miami. Jones has also appeared on TV shows like Food Fantasies on the Oprah Winfrey Network and is working on a cookbook. 

Cristie Besu. Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Cristie Besu, Guilt-Free Goddess 

Cristie Besu’s schedule is anything but light: She’s balancing being a single mother to three kids with running Eat Me Guilt Free, a protein-packed and better-for-you line of bread, brownies, snacks, and tortilla wraps that she launched out of her kitchen in 2013. The first-generation Cuban-American and native Miamian’s brand began as a passion project; as a registered nurse and certified sports nutritionist, she sought to find a solution for her clients who were in search of a healthy alternative to sweets. “The chocolate brownie was born as a result of me experimenting [with] nutrition science and seeing [patients with diseases] because of high-processed foods and sugar,” says Besu. 

Her brownie line is now available at 7,500 retailers worldwide and encompasses a range of flavors. She even offers brownies of the month: March’s “Get Lucky” (her brand is known for its innuendos) centers on pistachio. She’s since rolled out a line of mini baguettes, and a cake mix is in the works, too. 

Besu has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Aside from brownies, she has been busy baking up some pretty cool projects that align with her mission of empowering women. In 2021, Besu launched her You Glow Girl grant program. Born out of the pandemic, it invites women entrepreneur “glow-getters” to apply for a $10,000 grant that also includes mentorship to help advance their businesses. “More often than not, women entrepreneurs are not able to showcase their innovation in an industry because they can’t afford to do so,” she says. In honor of National Entrepreneurship Week last month, Besu rolled out her new-and-improved 2022 grant, which concludes in July.   

She’s also using her voice on a grander scale. In January, she gave a TEDx talk in Boca Raton titled “Women, Sex, and Power. Embrace All of You.” As a woman comfortable in her own skin, Besu reminded her audience that women are more powerful when they embrace their sexuality. “Long-standing social constructs have normalized silencing women,” she says. “Women should not be muted; no one should be. All of women’s experiences and feelings should be taken into account.” 

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